OnlyLyon: Settling In

OnlyLyon: So clever!

OnlyLyon: So clever!

Lyon has a tag line “onlyLyon.” You clever readers will quickly realize that “only” is an anagram of “Lyon.” Peter and I are becoming quite the Lyonaises (French speakers must ignore my inability to match person and tense, s’il vous plait). It’s very fun to try to speak French when we feel like it, and to throw ourselves on the good-humored mercy of the locals when we don’t.

Friends at home have asked, “how do you spend your days?” probably thinking that 6 months of this is possibly a tad too long not to get boring, or to remain pleasant to each other, let alone sane. So here’s the deal. First of all, it takes a fairly significant degree of time and fun to get to know a new neighborhood and a new apartment. Where’s the post office? How is the heat controlled? Where are the cash machines? Can we make the shower work better? How does the washing machine work? Why are the locks on the doors so weird? How do we pay for a bus ride? What is all this strange stuff in the grocery store? What do they call baking soda? That looks good, but what are rognons anyway? When are the stores usually open/closed? Do people cross against the light or not? And so on…

We’ve both become relatively late risers, so the first part of the day is just swanning around in our PJs, drinking our caffeine of choice, reading email etc., pouring over maps and deciding what to do/where to go today, eat in or out for dinner (8 pm is the absolute earliest any place wants to see you), do laundry, stuff like that. Laundry is a relatively big part of our lives, as we have to do it fairly often since we didn’t bring much, and also because the machines here have a pretty small load capacity and take forever.


Our Lyon kitchen. The apartment must be owned by Jamaicans with African roots--much carved wood, printed fabrics, etc. throughout.

Our Lyon kitchen. The apartment must be owned by Jamaicans with African roots–much carved wood, printed fabrics, etc. throughout.

Lyon is a city of about a half million people today, but greater Lyon has about 2 million. It sits in between and on both sides of the Rhone and the Saone rivers. There are lovely embankments and walk and bike ways on both sides of both rivers, both of which are now running fast and several feet over their usual levels—swollen from rains further north, which have been pretty unrelenting this winter.

Vieux Lyon from a pedestrian bridge across the Saone. See model of Tour Eiffel at top of hill.

Vieux Lyon from a pedestrian bridge across the Saone. See model of Tour Eiffel at top of hill, built deliberately to be taller than the church tower.

Lyon was a the capital of Roman Gaul for about three hundred years—there are 2 large amphitheaters here, one with a beautifully intact mosaic floor. The city collapsed when the aqueducts broke and the city was left without water. In the middle ages, Lyon became a center of silk weaving. It has a large medieval and renaissance section, called Vieux Lyon with many well-preserved buildings. Often the buildings were built right next to each other, with no alley or street in between, so they built interior passageways, called traboules, that run through the buildings from one street to another. The Germans had trouble figuring them out. Still in use, very cool. We took an architectural walk through the area that was very helpful. The city’s buildings were always built of the surrounding plentiful stone, never of wood, so no terrible fires like occurred in many other cities in mediaeval/renaissance times.

Traboule spiral steps in Vieux Lyon.

Traboule spiral steps in Vieux Lyon.

Our Croix-Rousse neighborhood is no longer a center of worker protest, it’s a hip area with lots of families. Teenagers hang out in the evenings and in the daytime the parks are full of little kids and their parents. Amazingly, they all speak flawless French.

The Lumiere brothers invented moving pictures here in 1895. One thing we’ve noticed about restaurants here is that they all have decent lighting! Everyone can read the menu and see their food without turning on their iphones!

Food: can’t stop talking about it. Learned that our neighborhood market has 400 vendors and runs every day 6am-1pm Tuesday-Sunday, closed only on Mondays. Incroyable! Tres magnifique! Those little French radishes with the white tips! French carrots! Leeks and endive galore. Tiny potatoes. Truly, no end of good veggies. Plus cheese, olives, bread, wine, nuts, meats and fishes. Plus our streets are full of fromageries, patisseries, boulongeries, boucheries and a chocolate place about every 10 meters. Plus regular grocery stores, just in case… On the restaurant side, Peter’s had the best tripe and the best calf’s liver he’s ever had in his life.

I’ve also been having fun photographing political posters and various graffiti and frescos around town. That’ll be in the next note—sorry, hadn’t realized this one had gone on so long.

One last photo from a new building in town, a sort of Frank Gehry wannabe. Terrific museum on the inside (like MOHAI in Seattle) but a bit angular and reptilian on the outside.

The Musee des Confluences--looks a little like a Star Wars evil empire spaceship from some angles.

The Musee des Confluences–looks a little like a Star Wars evil empire spaceship from some angles.

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